Monday, November 29, 2010

Ghana signs railway contract with Chinese firm

THE Government of Ghana has signed a US$6-billion contract with the Chinese National Machinery Import and Export Corporation (CMC) for the construction of railway infrastructure in Ghana.
The project, when completed, will provide rail lines from Nsawam through Kumasi to Paga and from Tamale to Yendi.
According to the contract, the first and the second phases of the project will commence in September 2011 and June 2014, respectively.
At a signing ceremony in Accra, the Minister for Transport, Mr Mike Hammah, stated that good railway and an efficient transport system contributed effectively to a nation’s economic development, hence the need to rehabilitate and modernise the railway system in Ghana.
He stressed the need for the development of railway infrastructure in the country as a means of accelerating economic growth and opening up the country.
The minister gave the assurance that the government was committed to the revamping of the railway system to attract investors into the country and develop the country’s export and import sector to make it more competitive to bring about improved balance of payment, as well as create job opportunities for the youth, in line with the government’s better Ghana agenda.
He expressed the hope that the agreement would further enhance the cordial relationship between Ghana and China.
The Vice President of CMC, Mr Zhao Jun, expressed his appreciation to the government for the collaboration and also expressed the hope that with the support and help of the Chinese government, his company would execute the job satisfactorily and on schedule.
The Board Chairman of the Ghana Railway Development Authority, Mr Daniel K. Markin, who signed the contract on behalf of Ghana, said upon completion of the project, the country would open to many businesses, as road traffic congestion and accidents would reduce considerably.
The Ghana Railway Company Limited is a public sector body with the responsibility for the efficient management of the national rail system to ensure the smooth movement of goods and passengers.

UK gives £10m for malaria control (Graphic Business)

THE United Kingdom (UK) Government is to assist Ghana to the tune of £10 million in support of the country's malaria control programme.
The support which is aimed at assisting the country to reach its goal of reducing the burden of malaria prevention and treatment by 75 per cent by 2015, would protect almost five million Ghanaians from the disease including nearly one million children under five years old.
The UK Under-Secretary of State for International Development Mr Stephen O'Brien, made the announcement during a visit to some communities in the Tolon-Kumbungu District of the Northern Region recently.
The funding would be used for the procurement and distribution of about two million long-lasting insecticide treated nets (ITNs) through United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF).
The UKaid currently provided £8m annually as Ghana's sector budget support over a five-year period (2008-2012) in support of the Ministry of Health (MoH) programme of work (PoW).
Malaria has been identified as the leading cause of ailments and deaths for children under five years of age in Ghana, accounting for 22 per cent of under five mortalities in 2007. It is caused by a parasite called Plasmodium, which is transmitted via the bites of infected mosquitoes. In the human body, the parasites multiply in the liver, and then infect red blood cells.
In 2008, the department further provided about £10m for the procurement of emergency obstetric equipment in support of Ghana's free maternal healthcare policy, which became operational that year.
In 2006 and 2007, DFID again provided a total of £8.7m through UNICEF to procure and distribute ITNS to children under two as well as pregnant women.
Symptoms of malaria include fever, headache, and vomiting, and usually appear between 10 and 15 days after the mosquito bite. If not treated, malaria can quickly become life-threatening by disrupting the blood supply to vital organs. In many parts of the world, the parasites have developed resistance to a number of malaria medicines.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Africa accounts for over 90 per cent of the 1.5 to 2 million global malaria deaths yearly. In several countries, the plague is hardest on children from ages 1-5 with a child dying every 30 seconds.
According to a study conducted by Ghana's Ministry of Health (MoH) in 2007, estimated annual economic cost of reported malaria case alone in country was US$772.4 million with the figure hovering around US$32.65 per person.
In spite of the increase funds made available to fight malaria, thousands of millions of people are still reeling under the threat of the disease, especially in Africa. In 2006, the Global Fund (GF) alone distributed about 18 million insecticide treated bed nets and reached 5.3 million patients with artemisinin- based therapies (ACTs).
Key interventions to control malaria include: Prompt and effective treatment use of insecticide nets by people at risk; and indoor residual spraying with insecticide to control the vector mosquitoes.
Prevention of malaria can aim at either: Preventing infection, by avoiding bites by parasite-carrying mosquitoes, or preventing disease, by using antimalarial drugs prophylactically. The drugs do not prevent initial infection through a mosquito bite, but they prevent the development of malaria parasites in the blood, which are the forms that cause disease. This type of prevention is also called "suppression."
In Ghana the MoH estimates that out of three million cases of suspected malaria reported each year in public health facilities, over 900, 000 affected children under the age of five.
It is estimated that every 30 seconds, a child in Africa dies from malaria, while 91 per cent of malaria deaths in the world occur in Africa.
Experts have indicated that insecticide treated nets could help counter the resistance built by the parasitic insects.

Govt approves policy to integrate senior citizens

Sat. November 27, 2010
THE government has approved a National Ageing Policy and an accompanying action plan to get senior citizens more involved in family and national affairs.
Addressing the National Executive Council Conference of the National Pensioners Association in Accra on Thursday, the Minister for Employment and Social Welfare, Mr Enoch Teye Mensah, said the action plan recommended three priority areas, namely active participation in the family, empowerment and well-being, in accordance with the Madrid Plan of Action on Ageing (MPAA).
He indicated that the ministry was seriously planning towards full implementation of the action plan by next year.
The policy, when implemented, will deal with challenges facing the aged and take advantage of their potential.
Ghana became signatory to the Madrid Plan of Action on Ageing (MPAA) in 2002. This international policy guideline represents a shift from the Vienna Plan of Action on Ageing, which was adopted in 1982.
Mr Mensah said the world was currently experiencing a revolution in longevity and the most serious consequences of the ageing population were yet to be experienced by developing countries such as Ghana.
He said the occurrence of ageing population was expected to be four times faster in the world by the year 2050 and that was expected to be more rapid in developing countries.
He said with these projections as a guide, Ghana could easily deduce that its population of the elderly persons above 65 years, which currently stands at 5.3 per cent, might reach 20 per cent by the year 2050.
Mr Mensah said that state of affairs would present many challenges to society and the government if the appropriate policy options, mechanisms and measures were not put in place.
He noted that the elderly were still productive, and that “we all should recognise that and allow them full participation in development”.
As part of the programme, there was a health talk to educate the senior citizens on how they should take care of their health.

VRA educates workers on heart diseases

Sat. November 27, 2010

THE Volta River Authority (VRA )last Thursday embarked on a health and safety awareness campaign to educate its staff on different types of heart diseases.
As part of the event, which was on the theme: Cardiovascular Diseases- Prevention and Control, the staff of the authority underwent fasting blood sugar test, blood pressure test as well as fire drill and sensitisation on fire safety.
Educating the staff on cardiovascular diseases, a medical officer of the VRA, Dr Emmanuel Sowah, said about 80 per cent of all heart diseases were acquired through the behaviour of the affected individuals.
He said some of the things people did when they were young tended to affect their health at a latter period and advocated healthy lifestyle through proper diet, exercise, rest as well as the avoidance of tobacco use.
Dr Sowah said cases of cardiovascular diseases, which were diseases of the heart and the blood vessels, were on the rise in Ghana and pointed out that the high number of VRA staff who were diagnosed with such cases was worrying.
He advised the staff to avoid risky behaviours such as consumption of refined carbohydrate found in white bread, rice, flour and sugar adding that since such food contained no fibre, when they were over-consumed they readily convert to fat leading to weight gain and obesity.
Dr Sowah rather encouraged the consumption of food with high fibre contents which he stressed was good for weight management and mentioned whole grains, roots, tubers, cereals, vegetables and fruits as examples.
He said protein should be acquired through more healthy ways such as the consumption of oily fish like salmon and mackerel and also from peas, beans and legumes.
Addressing the staff, the deputy Chief Executive Officer (CEO) in charge of Finance, Ms Alexandra Totoe, said occupational safety and health moved in tandem.
She pointed out unsafe shortcuts or what she termed “just this once” chances could result in severe injury of even death and advised members of staff to make a personal commitment to work safely, always.
“We must understand that our individual actions at work not only affect the VRA as a corporate body, but they also affect our families and personal lives as well. Everyone of us has some dear ones who is counting on us to get back home from work safely”, she stressed.
Touching on healthy living, Ms Totoe said since hypertension was mostly a life style condition, “this means, we must engage in responsible life style at all times. We must make conscious effort to eat healthy food, rest sufficiently, exercise regularly, and plan our work schedules in such a manner as to manage stress without undue pressure”.
The chairperson for the occasion, Mrs Efua Garbrah Sarfo, who is also the acting Director, Human Resource at the VRA, commended the staff for their interest in the programme and urged them to go by the professional advice.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Witch camps offend constitution — Bimi

THE Chairman of the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE), Mr Laary Bimi, has observed that the existence of witch camps in the country offends Chapter Five of the 1992 Constitution.
He considered the practice as discriminatory against women and inhuman and that it prevented the victims from enjoying their rights as humans as enshrined in the constitution.
He wondered why there were supposed to be wizards too but only women were made to endure the ordeal at the witches’ camps, where they are kept against their will.
Mr Bimi was speaking at a day’s workshop organised by the NCCE in Accra to disseminate findings of a study conducted by the Research Department of the Commission on: “Witchcraft and Human Rights of Women in Ghana: Case Study of Witches’ Villages in Northern Ghana”.
Witchcraft is considered a universal and historical phenomenon, which continues to attract a lot of interest. Suspected witches are regarded as evil and harmful and because of that, people suspected to possess such powers are sometimes killed, maltreated or banished from the communities in which they live.
Against that background, Mr Bimi challenged Ghanaians to abide by the tenets of the constitution in a holistic manner if they wanted to be counted among the democratic people of the world.
The study was conducted in three witches camps in the Northern Region, namely the Gambaga Camp in the East Mamprusi District, Tindanzie Camp in the Gushiegu District and the Tindang Camp in the Yendi District.
Presenting a paper on the “Objective, Methodology and Socio-demographic characteristics of Respondents”, Mrs Janet Sarney-Kumah said the 1992 Constitution established that citizens were entitled to certain rights and freedoms, which include equality before the law, freedom from torture, cruelty and inhuman treatment, and human dignity.
Mrs Sarney-Kuamh indicated that most of the alleged witches interviewed were very old people and said old age was a factor influencing an individual’s likelihood of being accused of witchcraft.
She, however, indicated that 7.1 per cent of the people interviewed openly admitted possessing witchcraft.
Mr Derek Gyamfi Yeboah, who presented a paper on “Witchcraft acquisition and conditions at the camps”, said 38 per cent of the respondents indicated that witchcraft was acquired through gifts obtained from persons who were already possessed.
In addition, 49 per cent stated that people acquired it through family lineage either by inheriting it from a dying relative or handed over to them by other family members.
Speaking on “Freedom of association, integration and conclusion”, Mrs Praise Mensah said since the constitution guaranteed the freedom of association for every citizen, the alleged witches, irrespective of their conditions, had the right to participate in every lawful social activity of their choice in the community.
In her welcoming address, the Director of Research at the NCCE, Mrs Getrude Zakaria-Ali, commended the personnel for a good work done and said with the findings, the Commission was better equipped to embark on an effective civic education, which the constitution mandates it to do.

GEA launches campaign against counterfeits

THE Coalition Against Counterfeit and Illicit Trade (CACIT-Ghana), a grouping within the Ghana Employers Association (GEA), has launched a national campaign against counterfeits and piracy.
The campaign is aimed at creating awareness of the impact of counterfeits and pirated goods on health, the economy, job creation and national development.
It is also to increase consistency and effectiveness of Intellectual Property Protection (IPP) in Ghana and ensure the progressive and sustained elimination of counterfeits and pirated goods from the Ghanaian and West African markets.
The campaign, which starts from October 28 to December 3, this year, is on the theme: “Say No to Fake Goods, Insist on the Original” and comes with activities such as capacity building training workshops, essay/art and song writing competitions to expose officials of law enforcement agencies, students, brand owners and consumers to the importance of Intellectual Property (IP) protection as well as the dangers of counterfeits and pirated goods.
A statement signed by a member of CACIT-Ghana and President of the Institute of Packaging, Ghana, Mr Kofi Essuman, said the coalition had already held a training workshop on intellectual property protection, counterfeiting and piracy in Takoradi and Kumasi.
It said about 180 participants were from the Food and Drugs Board, the Ghana Standard Board, the Police, Customs, Excise and Preventive Service (CEPS) and the Ghana Immigration Service (GIS).
Others included brand owners, traders, consumers and students with a similar workshop scheduled for November 25, 2010, in Accra.
The statement said the campaign would eventually culminate in an awards ceremony and musical concert to be held on December 3, 2010, where winners of the essay/art and song writing competitions held for students of senior high schools would receive their awards.
The United States Department for Commerce’s Commercial Law Development Programme (CLDP) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) are supporting the programme.
The support is aimed at aiding the efforts of developing nations to create an enabling environment for increased trade and investment, private sector development and to strengthen intellectual property regimes.

Amuana Praso citizens in Accra launch Amantuo

CITIZENS of Amuana-Praso resident in the Accra and Tema metropolitan areas last Sunday organised a fund-raising ceremony in aid of development projects in the town.
Led by the Amuana-Praso Kro Ye Kuo, the citizens, also launched the Amantuo Festival scheduled to be celebrated in Amuana-Praso next year.
The yearly Amantuo Festival signifies the journey the people of Amuana Praso made from Asante Juaben in ancient times to their present abode in the Eastern Region.
In his remarks, the Chief of Amuana-Praso, Nana Opoku Agyemang 11, advised the citizens to give back to society by supporting development projects back home.
He said with education as the focal point for next year’s festival, every citizen, both home and abroad should find means of playing a role in educating the youth in the town for future development.
Nana Agyemang commended members of the union for their initiative and prayed for their well-being as they lived outside their hometown to make ends meet.
For his part, the Gyaasehene of Asante Juaben, Nana Owusu Yentumi Akyeampong, stressed that education could be better if parents, children, as well as the government played their respective roles effectively.
Concentrating on parents and children, Nana Akyeampong said as parents did well to fund the education of their children, the children should also bear in mind that they could not survive in this modern world if they did not climb high on the educational ladder and so they should study hard.
He explained that education is important, especially for them as youth and urged them to take their studies seriously.
Nana Akyeampong commended members of the Kro Ye Kuo for coming together with the aim of developing their hometown and also extended warm felicitations from the Omanhene of Juaben, Nana Otuo Siribuo, to the people.
Giving some background information, the Chairman of the union, Mr S. L. Ofori Owusu, said the Amuana-Praso Kro Ye Kuo was formed about 31 years ago and added that it had assisted in bringing some development projects to the town and mentioned electricfication and water projects.
The Chairman for the occasion, Mr David Foster Forson, advised that since the citizens had chosen education as the theme for next year’s festival, they should set a target which they would endeavour to achieve.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Trade in sub-standard drugs on the increase (Graphic Business)

TRADE in counterfeit and sub-standard drugs is said to be gradually overtaking trade in narcotics, because of the former’s low risk and high profitability which could generate an estimated $20 billion annually.
The phenomenon has affected the pharmaceutical industry in many countries including Ghana where recent study of anti-malarial and anti-tuberculosis drugs conducted by the World Health Organisation (WHO) revealed an alarming failure rate of the drugs due to their counterfeiting and sub-standard production.
The WHO study, which was conducted over the period 2008-2010, in collaboration with the US Pharmacopoeia (USP), involved other African countries, such as Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Cameroun and Nigeria.
According to a WHO definition, “a counterfeit medicine is a medicine which is deliberately and fraudulently mislabelled with respect to identity and/or source . Counterfeiting can apply to both branded and generic products and counterfeit products may include products with the correct ingredients, without active ingredients, with insufficient active ingredients or with fake packaging”, whereas a substandard product is one found to be short of the required quality standards. Both counterfeits and substandard medicine are unfit for use.
Cases cited in the WHO study indicated that Amodiaquine Artesunate, which is the first line of treatment for malaria in Ghana, was found to have one of the highest failure rates, raising serious concerns among health professionals.
Although the report of the study is yet to be published, other studies have shown that some counterfeit and sub-standard drugs contained substantial amounts of powdered cassava, chalk powder and other substances that are injurious to human health.
When he presented some highlights of the WHO report at a lecture organised by the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences, in Accra recently, a former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ghana, Prof Ivan Addae-Mensah said “Study after study is proving that there is a major problem in this country and the rest of West Africa and we need to tackle this as a team, not as individual professional bodies jockeying for recognition”.
Details of the study will be known early next year, by which time the report would have been published, but Prof Addae-Mensah shared with his audience some highlights of the report which were discussed at the 45th meeting of the WHO Expert Committee on Specifications for Pharmaceutical Products last October, under his chairmanship.
He said the overall failure rate of 29 per cent for all the drug samples analysed was generally quite satisfactory but noted that where health was concerned, such a failure rate should raise concerns.
Ghana is said to have recorded the second highest failure rate of more than 60 per cent, coming after Nigeria with a more than 70 per cent failure rate, while Ethiopia recorded the lowest failure rate, having passed all the tests.
The problem was recently brought to the fore, when the Food and Drugs Board (FDB) identified some counterfeit and substandard anti-malarial drugs on the Ghanaian market and advised the public to be cautious when buying such drugs.
They include quinine sulfate, artesunate tablets and metakelfin tablets.
Additionally, some substandard chloroquine injections, which have not been registered by the Board, were also found on the market is spite of the fact that the use of Chloroquine as anti-malarial had been discontinued in Ghana since January 2005.
In its quest to safeguard the health of the consuming public, the FDB conducted periodic market surveillance on selected samples of medicinal products on the Ghanaian market for quality monitoring.
The counterfeit drugs were identified when samples of antimalarial drugs were picked from both public and private hospitals, retail pharmacies, licensed chemical shops and wholesale facilities across the country by officers in respective zonal offices of the FDB to determine their quality status.
Speaking to the Daily Graphic, the Communications Manager of the FDB, Mr James Y. Lartey said the public needed to be on the look out for such unsafe drugs since many of them found their way to the Ghanaian market through unproved routes where custom officers could not arrest them.
He explained that laboratory analyses conducted by the FDB with the support of United States Pharmacopoeia and USAID revealed that samples of the anti-malarial medicines tested were either counterfeits or substandard, thereby compromising their quality, safety and efficacy.
The counterfeited antimalarial drugs with their respective batch numbers were Metakelfin tablets with batch number C827A, Metakelfin tablets with batch number E378A, Artesunate tablets with batch number 080504 and Quinine Suflate with batch number 30551Q.
The original manufacturers of Artesunate tablets and Metakelfin tablets are Guilin Pharmaceutical Company Limited, China , and Pharmacia & Upjohn under authority of Pfizer Inc., New York respectively yet some unscrupulous people, however, managed to imitate the original and package for sale to the public.
According to the FDB, during testing each of those two counterfeited products were found to be without some essential identifying features characteristic of the true/authentic products, therefore, conforming the laboratory findings.
Besides the counterfeit drugs, the FDB also identified a number of substandard medicines including Artilum-140 tablets with batch number RT923, Renovate tablets with batch number MH932, Malmed tablets with batch number M080218, Malmed tablets with batch number M090034, Co-Artesun tablets with batch number FS090301 and Acumal Junior Powder with batch number RA8001, all imported.
Other substandard drugs are Trafan tablets with batch numbers 0108J, 03, 26,24,02 which all locally manufactured.
Substandard Chloroquine injections, which have not been registered by the FDB but were found on the market despite the fact that the use of Chloroquine as anti-malarial has been discontinued in Ghana since January 2005 included Chloroquine phosphate injection with batch number 70901, Chloroquine injection 70805, Chloroquine injection O004125, and Chloroquine injection O71124.
Others are Chloroquine injection B. P 70901, Chloroquine injection 80414, Berova Chloroquine 071124 and Chloroquine injection O70905. The rest are Zoquit O070913, Chloroquine injection O80412, Berova injection 80412.
The practice of selling counterfeit or substandard medicines is in contravention of section 12 of the Food and Drugs Law, PNDC Law 305B and its subsequent amendment Act 523, 1996, which states that: “Where a standard has been prescribed for any drug…, any person who labels, packages, sells or advertises any substance in such a manner that it is likely to be mistaken for that drug…. commits an offence….”
Additionally, section 18 of the Food and Drugs Law states categorically that; “No person shall manufacture, prepare, sell, supply, export or import into Ghana any drug, cosmetic, medical device or household chemical unless the article has been registered with the Food and Drugs Board…”
The Board has therefore directed the recall of those substandard antimalarial medicines from circulation by the respective manufacturers and importers and submit a complete product recall report to the Food and Drugs Board ten (10) days from the day of this publication.
It also advised the public not to patronise the specified batches of the counterfeited or substandard products and to report anyone found offering them for sale to the nearest FDB office.
As part of its responsibility as a regulatory body, the FDB also directed any wholesaler, pharmacy or licensed chemical shop that had in stock those medicines (with the specified batch numbers) to return them to the importer, distributor, manufacturer or to the FDB. It also directed the respective companies to immediately withdraw the products from the market in order not to endanger public health and safety.
Meanwhile, the FDB has indicated it was taking the necessary regulatory actions against the manufacturers/importers of those medicines.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Fire damage estimated at GH¢6.9m

Sat. November 20, 2010
THE Ghana National Fire Service (GNFS) recorded 2,858 fire outbreaks in 2009 which claimed 56 lives, injured 56 others and left behind an estimated damage of GH¢6.9 million.
Addressing a meeting organised for directors and regional commanders of the service in Accra, Mr Albert Brown Gaisie, the acting Chief Fire Officer, said the target of the GNFS was to reduce the cost of damage and loss of lives and property to the barest minimum and called on the personnel to play their respective roles effectively.
“This is in pursuit of our dream to ultimately achieve a fire free Ghana in the approaching Yuletide,” he stressed.
He said to achieve that objective, various programmes had been proposed for implementation for the rest of the year and mentioned capacity building, fire safety education in schools, colleges and universities, in collaboration with the appropriate authorities, as well as intensification of the broadcast of fire safety tit-bits through the print media, radio and television.
He also talked about the organisation of seminars and workshops, in collaboration with stakeholders, including the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG), the Ghana Water Company Limited, district assemblies, among others.
The Minister of the Interior, Mr Martin Amidu, advised the officers not to allow recent happenings in the service to divide them, saying they should rather close their ranks and work for the benefit of the nation.
He also advised those in charge of procurement in the service to be circumspect in their duties, adding that anybody found on the wrong side of the Procurement Law would not be spared.
On the interdicted officials of the service, the Interior Minister said they were made to step aside according to public service regulations so that investigations could be carried into the matter which, he said, bordered on procurement.
He said they had not been found guilty and, therefore, they had the right to employ all legal means to clear their names.
Mr Amidu urged the management of the service to scrutinise the large number of applications which had been received for recruitment into the service, adding that there was the need for the most qualified to be engaged to ensure discipline and efficiency.
The Chairman of the Fire Service Council, Alhaji Amadu Sorogho, indicated that the government had released funds for the acquisition of 54 pick-up vehicles and 20 19-seater buses for educational campaigns.
He said the council was holding discussions with the appropriate authorities to ensure that fire officers were allowed to go on peace-keeping missions.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Show interest in governance of local communities

A DEPUTY Chairman of the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE), Mrs Augustina Akosua Akumanya, has stated that it is the responsibility of citizens to be interested in the governance of the communities in which they live.
She said at the individual level, all citizens belonged to communities and therefore, each had a role to play in the development of such areas as well as of the nation in general.
Mrs Akumanya said this at the 9th Greater Accra Regional Inter-Senior High Schools Constitution Game Competition held at Ngleshie Amanfrom Senior High School in the Ga South Municipality.
The event, which is organised by the NCCE on regular basis, has the objective to instil in the youth the habit of studying the Constitution through the Constitution Game. The theme for the event was: “Sharpening the Democratic Skills of the Youth Through the Ghana Constitution Game”.
Out of the 10 schools that took part in the competition, Ada Senior High School emerged the overall winner followed by St John’s Grammer and Christian Methodist Senior High Schools in that order.
In her address, Mrs Akumanya, who is also in charge of Finance and Administration, urged the educated in society to help disseminate the appropriate information to others who were not fortunate enough to be educated.
She said many a time, the illiterate in the various communities looked up to the literate for the right information adding that “as the educated ones in society it is part of your responsibility to disseminate information to your locals who may be illiterate and therefore look up to you for information”.
She took the opportunity to read the first stanza of the national anthem as well as the duties of a citizen as contained in the Constitution to remind the audience of their individual rights and responsibilities.
She also advised the youth to do away with tribalism, political intolerance, corruption as well as alcohol and drug abuse.
For her part, the Greater Accra Regional Director of the NCCE, Mrs Joyce B. Afutu, said the commission had endeavoured to keep the Constitution Game running so long as Ghanaians had accepted the path of democracy and constitutional rule as the only legitimate means of achieving development.
She pointed out that by playing the game, the youth became more knowledgeable and better-informed about the significance of the Constitution as the fundamental law of the land where democratic culture of rule of law, transparency, tolerance, freedom of expression and other civic virtues thrived.
Mrs Afutu pointed out that through the efforts of the NCCE, civic society groups and other organisations, the Constitution was no longer the preserve for the few elite class, but had pervaded every nook and cranny of society and had largely been appreciated by all civic-minded Ghanaians.
She maintained that the youth of today as leaders of tomorrow, needed to be equipped with the civic virtues of democracy and the dynamics of transparent and an all inclusive political leadership.
She said the essence of the Constitution game was not necessarily about winning a contest or the perceived funfair, but it was more about exposing the youth to the tenets of the Constitution and its democratic values.

Graphic board members inspect new printing press

BOARD members of the Graphic Communications Group Limited (GCGL) yesterday inspected the new printing press being installed by the company.
Led by Mr Emmanuel Baba Mahama, the board chairma , the team was taken round the place by the acting Managing Director, Mr Kwesi Adjei Kersi.
At the project site, a group of German engineers with additional technical staff from the GCLC, were busily working on the installation of the machines.
On the ground were various sizes of equipment which had already been installed and awaiting final connection to start the operation of what has been described as the state-of the-art printing press.
As part of the tour, the board members interacted with the engineers and commended them for their effort to finish the work on schedule.
In an interview after the tour, Mr Mahama said he was impressed at what he had seen so far.
He epxressed the hope that the work would be completed by the end of the year to enable the company to starting operating the machines.
For his part, Mr Kersi, who is also the General Manager (Technicals) explained that unlike the the old printing press, the new one had a place for future expansion adding that when the need arose, additional equipment for other purposes could be added to what was being installed.
The acting MD said when the new equipment start operating, it would be the only one of its type in West Africa with others in use only in Kenya and South Africa.
He indicated that all things being equal, the job will be completed on schedule since all the engineers including the Ghanaians were keen on getting things done on time and for that reason had to work at weekends.

Govt urged to address NHIS challenges

Thursday, November 18, 2010
THE Association of Health Service Administrators of Ghana (AHSAG) has identified some major challenges hampering the implementation of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) and called on the government to address them as a matter of urgency.
In a communiqué issued at the end of its 34th annual general meeting in Takoradi, the association summed up the challenges as delay in processing and submission of claims, fraudulent practices, poor quality services, inadequate health professionals and inadequacy of essential medical supplies.
To ensure sustenance of the scheme, the association called on the government and other stakeholders to take note of the issues and find solutions to them.
The theme for the event was; “Sustaining the National Health Insurance Scheme: The role of the Health Services Administrators”.
In an eight-point communiqué which was signed by Mr Benard Kwasi Botwe and Mr Micah Asare Bediako, the President and the Deputy General Secretary of AHSAG respectively, the association said information it gathered from the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA), seemed to suggest that expenditure in recent times had increased and might outstrip the income if pragmatic steps were not taken to reverse the trend.
“For instance, the information shows that in 2005 income for the scheme was higher than expenditure. However, by 2010, expenditure had equalled income and it is projected that by 2012, expenditure may exceed income .
In spite of the challenges, the association noted that the NHIS had chalked up a lot of successes and, therefore, commended the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) and the government for the achievement.
Some of the achievement it mentioned were increased in access to health care services by the generality of Ghanaians and specific packages for the poor and the vulnerable as well as increase in the financial resources of health care institutions, among others.
The association , however, noted that the sustainability of the NHIS, like other business venture, depended largely on positioning the scheme on a sound financial footing and recommended that the government, the Ministry of Health, NHIA and other stakeholders sought alternative sources of income for the scheme as measures to fortify its revenue base and sustainability.
The health service administrators declared their support for the Vice President’s pronouncement that a portion of the expected oil and gas revenue would be devoted to the NHID and in addition called on the government to allocate a percentage of revenue from cocoa and royalties from the mines and other extractive industries to support the scheme.
On the reimbursement of insurance claims, the association commended the NHIA for reducing time reimbursement of claims from 90 days to 60 days. It also commended the authority for having fully reimbursed all service providers up to July, 2010, and 50 per cent of the August, 2010 claim.
In spite of the commendation, the association noted that, notwithstanding the positive developments in the implementation of the scheme, there were difficulties in data capturing, compilation of claims, processing and vetting of claims and delays which caused problems with the reimbursement process.
On NHIS tariffs, the AHSAG observed that the operational guidelines governing the introduction of the current tariff regime stipulated that tariffs would be reviewed every six months but it had observed that the guidelines had not been followed since the tariffs were introduced in 2008.
Some issues which when handled effectively could impact positively on the NHIS and were, therefore, discussed at the annual conference were malaria control, staff recruitment and development, construction of new health facilities as well as discipline among health workers.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Ameer calls for political decency (Front Page)

THE Ameer and Missionary in charge of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Mission, Maulvi Dr A. Wahab Adam, has stated that since Ghanaians have chosen, out of their own free will, to practise multi-party democracy, they have no choice but to create an enabling environment for mutual respect, tolerance and active co-operation among all parties.
He maintained that that decision presupposed the use of decent language in political discourse, devoid of invectives and all manner of insults.
Delivering a sermon on the occasion of this year’s Eid-ul-Adha held at the Ahmadiyya Conference Centre at Ashongman, near Accra, yesterday, Maulvi Adam observed that of late many well-meaning Ghanaians had expressed “horror and utter disappointment at the indecency of language used in our political discourse”.
“Such foul language is bound not only to send wrong signals to potential investors but also it is as un-Ghanaian as it is a bad example for the youth who are the future leaders of the country,” he pointed out.
The Head of the Ahmadiyya Mission indicated that one of the cardinal principles of the Hajj, according to the Holy Qur’an, was to eschew lewd talk, quarrelling and transgression and show respect to one another in all dealings, as members of the human fraternity created by the Almighty in His own image.
He explained that the Hajj was one of the five pillars of Islam and that Eid-ul-Adha, which means Sacrifice Festival, was celebrated by Muslims all over the world to mark the spectacular sacrifice by the Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) of his only son, Ismail (Ishmael), with the active support of his spouse, Hajrah (Hagar) in willing obedience to Allah’s command.
Maulvi Adam said it was not a mere coincidence that this year’s Eid day fell on the International Day of Tolerance as declared by the United Nations (UN).
“On the occasion of Eid-ul-Adha which marks the end of the ritual of the Hajj, we need to remind ourselves of the crucial importance of unity, mutual co-operation and sincere co-existence, despite our political, religious and ethnic diversity, and also sacrifice and hard work to build a strong and prosperous nation,” he stressed.
He noted that Eid-ul-Adha, which is the culmination of the rituals of the Hajj, should be considered as a means not only for moral and spiritual uplift but also a reminder of the need for nation building.
As part of the occasion, the Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Mission in Ghana led the congregation in fervent prayers for the unity, peace and prosperity of the nation.
From the Burma Camp in Accra, Michael Donkor reports that the Minister of Defence, Lt Gen Joseph Henry Smith (retd) called on the Muslim community in the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF) to live in harmony with their neighbours and work together as one people for the good of the country.
He said as Muslims, Islam taught them to be peace-loving and share a common humanity that should inspire them to work together.
Lt Gen Smith made the call at special Muslim prayers to mark Eid-ul-Adha at the Burma Camp in Accra.
He said Eid-ul-Adha was a great reminder to all humanity of the importance of principles, such as faith, repentance, honesty, sympathy and equality, as well as concern for the dispossessed and the poor.
He urged Muslim soldiers to let the symbolic sacrifice to instil in them the values of love, sacrifice and compassion that would influence their everyday interactions with one another, irrespective of ethnic and religious origin, as they strove to build the nation together.
In an address read on his behalf, the Chief of the Defence Staff, Lt Gen Peter Blay, reminded the soldiers that their actions should be underpinned by their love for mankind and the entire creation of the “one true God”.
He said their ability to share would demonstrate the sense of sacrifice exhibited by the Patriarch Abraham and urged them to do things that would enhance the image of the GAF as an institution devoted to serving the needs of the nation.
The Chief Imam of the GAF, Lt Col Sheikh Seidu Adam, urged the soldiers not to yield or succumb to defeat or cowardice and give up any good thing in their lives.
He said one should rather ask God for the power to endure those frequent trials successfully to prove oneself worthy of one’s position as a divine leader, statesman or politician.

Bad judgements fuel land disputes — Records, research study show

RECORDS available at the Lands Commission and other research conducted on land in Ghana show that bad court judgements delivered in some land cases have accentuated conflicts in many areas.
The administrative mechanisms for registering such judgements tended to be fraught with challenges as a result of the open-ended descriptions of the lands in question, pre-recorded transactions in favour of other owners who were not parties to the disputes, non-scientific plans attached to judgements, among others.
These were brought to the fore in Accra at a round-table discussion organised by the Ghana Centre for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana) on the topic: “Enhancing Good Governance and the Development Effects of Judicial Decisions on Land”.
Participants were officials of the Lands Commission, members of the Judiciary and traditional rulers.
In his presentation, Mr Sulemana Mahama, the Chief Lands Officer at the Lands Commission, said problems associated with land included delays in dispensing cases, compulsory acquisition and national development agenda, some impact of judicial decision, weakened customary control of land, opportunistic land sales and mass invasion on public land.
Mr Mahama said the basis for Ghana’s socio-economic development, political and social harmony hinged, to a great extent, on land and, therefore, issues of land must be treated with the seriousness they deserved.
He indicated that recent statistics suggested that close to 73 per cent of sector contribution of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) emanated from land-related productive activities, while up to 80 per cent of land holding was held in customary tenure, with agriculture accounting for more than 60 per cent of employment.
He, therefore, suggested the need to ensure continuous judicial and stakeholder education and engagement.
In his comment, a lecturer at the Law Faculty of the University of Ghana, Mr Kwame Gyan, said officials at the Lands Commission were to be blamed in some of the land-related litigation, explaining that some of them intentionally gave out wrong reports to benefit those they wanted to please.
The Executive Director of CDD-Ghana, Professor E. Gyima-Boadu, said the sources of the endemic problem of land and landed property insecurity and chaos were likely to be many but the official adjudication bodies, including the Judiciary, were most likely to be implicated directly or indirectly.
He, therefore, called for a mechanism which would enable issues involving land to be resolved amicably, since land and land-based resources represented crucial productive assets.
The Chairman for the occasion, Justice S. A Brobbey, said since land was considered one of the most important items in the life of man, anything to do with it must be done with care in order not to create problems in society.

Let’s save children from pneumonia through vaccination’

THIS year’s World Pneumonia Day was commemorated on the theme, “Fight Pneumonia. Save our Children”. As part of the event, the Paediatric Society of Ghana organised a press conference in Accra where the association appealed to the country’s development partners to include pneumococcal vaccine to the list of vaccines available in Ghana for the prevention of pneumonia.
The disease is considered one of the main causes of under-five deaths, claiming the lives of about 16,200 Ghanaian children each year.
It was also explained that if vaccines had helped to curb the incidence of measles and whooping cough among Ghanaian children, there was the need for a vaccine to prevent pneumonia to save the lives.
Pneumonia, a deadly infection, is caused by virus, bacteria or fungus and affects one or both lungs. It is one of the commonest causes of death among children below the age of five years.
Symptoms of the disease are high temperature, cough, fast breathing, in-drawing of chest wall and the tongue turning blue in very severe cases.
Addressing journalists in Accra ahead of the World Pneumonia Day, a consultant paediatrician at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital, Professor Bamenla Goka, indicated that risk factors of the infection included weak immunity, malnutrition, sickle cell disease, premature baby, HIV, measles, whooping cough, unhealthy environment, smoke, excess sand, over-crowding and poor ventilation.
Globally, pneumonia is considered one of the leading causes of death among children under five years and each year about 1.5 million children die from that condition. It is indicated that one child dies from pneumonia every 20 seconds accounting to 4,300 deaths in a day.
It is also estimated that 98 per cent of children who die from pneumonia live in developing countries which include Ghana.
Besides the loss through death, pneumonia causes needless suffering and stress on families and also contributes to poverty through the costs incurred from health care delivery, medications, transportation in and out of hospitals and the caretaker’s inability to work to cater for the other family members.
In her presentation, Professor Goka, who is a member of the Paediatric Society of Ghana, said at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital alone, about 510 pneumonia cases were recorded each year with about 32 per cent of deaths involving children who were about one month old.
She indicated that early detection of the disease could help in successful treatment and advised care providers to send children with symptoms of the disease to the nearest health facility.
To protect our children from pneumonia, she said there was the need to provide a healthy environment for their growth.
That, according to child care experts, could be achieved through inexpensive practices such as, exclusive breastfeeding, adequate nutrition, reducing indoor pollution, encouraging hand washing in schools and homes and taking steps to address the issue low birth weight.
To prevent pneumonia, immunisation against the organisms causing pneumonia is a vital step and some of these vaacines could be accessed under Expanded Programme of Immunisation (EPI).
Information provided to the media by the Paediatric Society of Ghana at the press conference indicated that Hib vaccine, measles and pertussis vaccines are safe and effective and had led to a remarkable decline in pneumonia deaths. The society therefore called for universal coverage of those vaccines, as well as introduction of the pneumococcal vaccine.
It also explained that because HIV and AIDS weakened the immune system, there was the need to strengthen the preventive campaigns to reduce the spread and that included the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) programme.
Another point raised was the importance of zinc supplementation which had been found to prevent and reduce death from pneumonia.
The National Child Health Co-ordinator of Ghana Health Service (GHS), Dr Isabella Sagoe-Moses, for her part said in 2008, pneumonia ranked fourth highest among the conditions seen at the outpatients department (OPDs) as well as among admissions in the country’s health facilities.
Interventions put in place by the health sector to minimise the incidence of the disease, according to Dr Sagoe-Moses included improving access, quality and demand for services, promotion of exclusive breastfeeding and hand-washing.
She also indicated that health workers had been sensitised to offer immediate attention to suspected pneumonia cases since the disease was deadly and deserved prompt attention, adding that there existed vaccines for the prevention of haemophilus influenza B and measles, which could help to reduce pneumonia
She gave the assurance that there were plans to introduce pneumococcal vaccine which was used in the prevention of pneumonia in the country by 2012.
As part of its objectives, the Paediatric Society of Ghana, in conjunction with International Paediatric Associations seeks to educate the public about the causes and dangers of pneumonia and also draw the attention of interest groups on how to prevent and combat the disease among children.

Research institutions to receive assistance Graphic Business)

A UK-based non-governmental organisation (NGO) Wellcome Trust, is supporting research institutions in six West and East African countries to develop research careers for post doctoral scientists at the cost of five million pounds. The beneficiary countries are Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal, Chad, Uganda, and Tanzania.
The funding which will be spread over the next five years, will be managed by an African research consortium for ecosystem and population health refereed to as Afrique One.
Afrique One Postdoctorate Fellowships in Ecosystem and Population Health, comprises eleven African universities and research institutions in the six member countries and is funded through the Wellcome Trust’s African Institutes Initiative.
The Afrique One Postdoctorate Fellowships programme seeks to support the next generation of African science leaders in the field of ecosystem and population health. To benefit, the consortium accepts the very best post-doctoral scientists to develop independent sustainable science programmes in each of the consortium’s core institutions.
Between October 17 and October 24 2010, the 3rd planning, training and evaluation workshop of Afrique One was held at Erata Hotel in Accra, Ghana where researchers and scientists as well as officials from Wellcome Trust met to deliberate on how best to make good use of the funding.
With more than 30 representatives, the workshop held series of presentations in plenary sessions, had discussions among a panel of experts, held a press conference as well as group discussion sessions and social events. Ghana’s Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR) served as the host research institution during the conference period.
Taking into consideration the guidelines of Afrique One Consortium, the workshop was planned with the following goals: To finalise postdoctoral recruitment, to plan postdoctoral works, to build the capacities of financial officers and master the Afrique One programme finances.
Others goals were to train specific officials in communicating with the media and policy makers, to share on new changes related to the Afrique One concept and to revise the consortium governance.
To achieve the goals and proposed outcomes, an operational structure for the workshop was set up combining presentations during plenary sessions and group sessions to discuss specific issues that had been identified as relevant.
At a press briefing organised as part of the 3rd Planning and Evaluation Workshop the Head of Bacteriology Department of the Noguchi Memorial Institute on Medical Research, Dr Kwasi Addo, said many diseases which affected humans could be prevented if animal health was taken seriously and called for collaboration between medical doctors and veterinary doctors to find common solutions in fighting diseases.
The press briefing, according to the organisers was to build the capacity of media personnel on the One Health concept which is a co-operation between human and animal health to strengthen health systems.
Dr Addo explained that many of the diseases which affected human beings had links with animals and so if animals were taken care of properly, they could be prevented from getting sick and cited cases such as mad cow disease, Avian Influenza (bird flu), rabies, and bovine TB.
The Director of Afrique One, Professor Bassirou Bonfoh, indicated that the problem most African institutions faced was brain drain and therefore, made it difficult to build careers of African scientists at post doctoral level.
Professor Brian Perry of the Scientific Advisory Board, Afrique One Consortium, said the consortium had a mix of institutions and scientists from both Anglophone and Francophone Africa, who were now working together to raise the credibility of their organisations, of the science that they were engaged in and of human resources they were nurturing.
He explained that the training being offered by Wellcome Trust, will provide a fundamental basis to develop the capacity to manage and administer research funding.
For his part, Professor Jacob Zinsstag an expert who facilitated during the event, said Afrique One to build up research capacity for the betterment of human and animal health as well as welfare.
“A principal foundation of Afrique One’s work is to work closer between doctors, veterinarians and wildlife specialists,” he indicated.
Participants had the hope that the Afrique One project would help many of the scientists on the continent to benefit from the development of the continent.

Monday, November 15, 2010

GTZ supports health package for workers

THE German Technical Co-operation (GTZ) is collaborating with six private companies to implement a three-year programme that would enhance the welfare of workers.
The companies are Aqua Vitens Rand Limited/Ghana Water Company, Japan Motors Trading Company Limited, Newmont Ghana Gold Limited, Accra Brewery Limited, Superlock Technologies Limited and UT Group Ghana Limited.
Dubbed the Employee Well-being Programme (EWP), it is to sustain and improve the health, social and financial status of employees, their core families and members of the immediate communities where the companies operate.
Other objectives of the initiative is to enhance the capacity of state institutions such as the ministries of Health; Employment and Social Welfare; and Roads and Transport.
During a media launch of the programme in Accra yesterday, the Team Leader of the GTZ Regional Co-ordination Unit for HIV and Tuberculosis (GTZ-ReCHT), Dr Holger Till, said the companies were providing a total of €2 million, the Government of Ghana (GoG) was offering support worth €240,000 and the GTZ was providing €1.5 million in cash and in kind.
Present at the launch were representatives of the companies and the ministries involved, as well as officials of some health-related organisations and agencies.
Dr Till said the disease prevention package of the programme involved counselling and testing for HIV, TB, Hepatitis B, Meningitis, hypertension, cholesterol, glucose, breast cancer, cervical cancer and general health check, among others.
In his remarks, the Head of Co-operation at the German Embassy, Ms Harriet Ludwig, said Ghanaians workers needed intervention such as the one being introduced under the EWP to sustain the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).
She said it was important for workplaces to have such programmes to take care of employees and their dependants holistically since well-being involved more than just health care.
Ms Ludwig encouraged the companies involved to do well to sustain the EWP, which is a pilot programme of the GTZ, adding that if the country was able to perform well, other countries would learn from it.
The chairperson for the event, Dr Edith Tetteh, a Commissioner of the National Development Planning Commission (NPDC), commended GTZ for the initiative.
She also expressed the hope that the companies would endeavour to continue with the programme after the three-year expiry period.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Paediatric Society appeals for pneumonia vaccines

THE Paediatric Society of Ghana has appealed to the country’s development partners to include pneumococcal vaccine to the list of vaccines available in Ghana for the prevention of pneumonia.
The society said the disease was one of the main causes of under-five deaths, claiming the lives of about 16,200 Ghanaian children each year.
Pneumonia, a deadly infection, is caused by virus, bacteria or fungus and affects one or both lungs. It is one of the commonest causes of death among children below the age of five years. Globally, the disease kills three children per minute.
Symptoms of the disease are high temperature, cough, fast breathing, in-drawing of chest wall and the tongue turning blue in very severe cases.
Addressing journalists in Accra yesterday ahead of the World Pneumonia Day, which falls on November 12 and is being celebrated on the theme “Fight Pneumonia. Save our Children”, a consultant paediatrician at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital, Professor Bamenla Goka, said if vaccines had helped to curb the incidence of measles and whooping cough among Ghanaian children, there was the need for a vaccine to prevent pneumonia to save the lives.
Professor Goka, who is a member of the Paediatric Society of Ghana, said at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital alone, about 510 pneumonia cases were recorded each year with about 32 per cent of deaths involving children who were about one month old.
She mentioned risk factors of the infection to include weak immunity, malnutrition, sickle cell disease, premature baby, HIV, measles, whooping cough, unhealthy environment, smoke, excess sand, over-crowding and poor ventilation.
She indicated that early detection of the diseases helped in successful treatment and advised care providers to send children with symptoms of the disease to the nearest health facility.
She also advised against administration of cough mixtures in such cases since they had the tendency of worsening the condition of the sick child.
In her presentation, the National Child Health Co-ordinator of Ghana Health Service (GHS), Dr Isabella Sagoe-Moses, said in 2008, pneumonia ranked fourth highest among the conditions seen at the outpatients department (OPDs) as well as among admissions in the country’s health facilities.
She said interventions put in place by the health sector to minimise the incidence of the disease included improving access, quality and demand for services, promotion of exclusive breastfeeding, hand-washing, as well as efforts to get health workers to offer immediate attention to suspected pneumonia cases.
Dr Sagoe-Moses said there existed vaccines for the prevention of haemophilus influenza B and measles, which could help to reduce pneumonia, adding that there were plans to introduce pneumococcal vaccine in the country by 2012.
The President of the Paediatric Society of Ghana, Dr Theresa Rettig, in her welcoming address, expressed the hope that the media would collaborate with health workers in the fight against pneumonia.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Government pleads with doctors for more time— Over their grievances

THE Minister of Health, Dr Benjamin Kunbuor, has sent a passionate appeal to members of the Ghana Medical Association (GMA) not to go on strike but allow the government sometime to meet their demands.
He said although their action might be legitimate, they should take into consideration the number of lives which might be lost should they embark on the strike.
Appearing yesterday for the first time at the weekly meet-the-press series organised by the Ministry of Information in Accra, Dr Kunbuor said, “as the health minister, I have it as my prayer when I wake up each morning, that no health worker goes on strike because it means one thing — loss of lives”.
He maintained that he had been in constant touch with the medical doctors and gave the assurance he was doing all he could to ensure that their demands were met soon.
In a communiqué read at a press conference to climax the 52nd annual general meeting of the Ghana Medical Association (GMA) in Koforidua on November 6, 2010, the leadership of the association gave an ultimatum that November 30, 2010 should be the deadline for the payment of their outstanding on-duty-facilitation allowance, otherwise they would withdraw their services.
The President of the association, Dr Emmanuel Adom Winful, said it was unfortunate that for almost two years after negotiations for the allowance, its implementation had not been fully carried out, making majority of doctors not being paid the allowance.
Addressing the well-attended media event, the health minister said the mission of the health sector was to contribute to the socio-economic development of a local health industry by promoting health for all persons living in Ghana, using well motivated personnel.
“The ultimate goal of the ministry is to ensure a healthy and productive population that reproduces itself safely by providing the following health services: Promotive, preventive, curative and rehabilitative,” the minister indicated.
Touching on the negative attitude of some health personnel, which affected health care delivery, Dr Kunbour said much as it was a fact that some of the personnel did not treat patients properly, the attitude of some members of the public was equally a problem, which must be addressed, and pointed out that there was the need for the public to also understand the difficulty in which health personnel found themselves due to under-staffing.
He indicated that specific priorities of the health sector under the “Better Ghana” agenda of the government included the need to reduce maternal and under-five mortality, ensure efficient co-ordination in the control of malaria, tuberculosis (TB), HIV and AIDS and to scale up universal access to health care through a policy that allowed for one-time premium payment under the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).
Others, according to the minister, were to improve on institutional and emergency care, as well as epidemic preparedness, improve on water supply in health facilities, and institute bed rationing or rotation system in all hospitals to avoid what he termed regular floor patients.
On the implementation of the one-time-premium payment, he said the government had stated its commitment to scaling up universal health care for residents of the country through a policy that allowed for one-time-premium payment for membership of the NHIS.
He pointed out that a nation-wide survey to determine the willingness of the citizenry to pay the one-time-premium was conducted in 2009 and also the road map towards the implementation of the initiative had been developed awaiting the passage of the new NHIS law to pave the way for the presidential launch.
On maternal and child health, Dr Kunbuor said specific interventions introduced to reduce deaths were free maternal and child health services under the NHIS, equipping hospitals with obstetric facilities, improving referral system, as well as ongoing leadership training to improve staff attitude.
The health minister mentioned routine immunisation and nation-wide campaigns, malarial control, HIV and AIDS control/prevention, provision of anti-retroviral therapy, regenerative health and nutrition, TB control, guinea worm eradication programme, control of cholera and meningitis outbreaks and control of the Pandemic Influenza (H1N1 2009) as some of the achievements the health sector had chalked up.
Dr Kunbour said currently, the nation had 24 fully functioning ambulance stations throughout the country, adding that the government was planning to expand the National Ambulance Service (NAS) to cover all district capitals. The minister said plans were far advanced to procure 355 new ambulances to augment the existing fleet.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

GTZ, GRA initiate health programme for workers (Graphic Business)

A comprehensive health-related workplace programme aimed at improving the entire well-being of the Ghanaian workforce has been initiated.
The initiative, Employee Well-being Programme (EWP), is a collaborative effort of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) and the Ghana Community Network (GCNet), a private company that provides services to the GRA and other organisations.
Some agencies and organisations covered under the (EWP) are the Domestic Tax Division as well as the Customs Division and the Supportive Services Division created out of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Customs Excise and Preventive Service (CEPS).
With both financial and technical support from the Regional Co-ordination Unit for HIV and Tuberculosis (GTZ-ReCHT) of the German Technical Co-operation’s (GTZ), EWP is to improve access to health, social protection and financial counselling service to workers. It is expected to benefit approximately 38,000 workers before 2012.
The initiative is part of a range of programmes supported by GTZ-ReCHT which has been promoting workplace programmes since 2006 in collaboration with agencies of the Ghana Health Service (GHS).
It is also to provide prevention, treatment and care facilities for targeted employees, their core families as well as members of the immediate communities in which those organisations operate.
Additionally, the programme is meant to foster behavioural change among the participants as well as bring benefits to participants who would get to know their general health status and receive support if needed. It is also supporting the companies and organisations to develop measures to improve the health situation and hence the productivity of their workforce.
A release on the programme indicated that infectious diseases such tuberculosis, malaria, and hepatitis B and other health conditions such as heart related diseases and cancers are the leading causes for serious illness in Ghana.
The statement also indicated that the programme include social protection and financial wellness component since financial pressures could additionally trigger psychological problems of and cause illnesses. It indicated that the provision of increase of social protection through retirement benefit schemes, health insurance and other insurance schemes reduces pressure on employees and increases their well-being.
During this year’s World Heart Day which is celebrated on the last Sunday of September every year, the GHS, GCNet and GTZ as part of the EWP, embarked on series of health walks, organised medical and laboratory screening for heart related risk factors such as hypertension, body mass index (BMI), cholesterol, and diabetes as well as counselling and testing for HIV were offered free of charge. The exercise took place in all the 10 regional capitals of the country namely: Accra, Kumasi, Tamale, Cape Coast, Takoradi, Koforidua, Ho, Sunyani, Bolga and Wa.
At the launch of the an EWP policy document for public and private sector on Monday, October 25, 2010, the Deputy Minister of Health, Mr Robert Joseph Mettle-Nunoo, said the policy was unique and comprehensive which was in line with government’s goal of providing not only accessible but affordable health care for citizens of the nation.
The document which was developed in collaboration with GTZ and the GCNet covers health, mental, emotional, social and financial well-being of employees.
The policy is to enhance the health status of GRA and GCNet employees and dependants, to provide social protection and financial wellness, and also to ensure adequate, consistent and sustainable provision of information and education on health, living with disability, financial comfort and social protection.
I also features confidentiality of the health status of employees, gender equality, collective responsibility, and non-discrimination in obtaining healthcare.
The Deputy Health Minister indicated that government attached great importance to the well-being of employees in both the public and private sectors and as such several interventions had been put in place to ensure that the nation’s workforce stayed healthy.
Mr Mettle-Nunoo mentioned that interventions such as the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), the National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP) , the National AIDS Control Programme and the regenerative health policies of the Ministry of Health (moH) had all helped to improve the health of Ghanaians.
He said that public-private partnership such as the EWP which complimented government’s efforts were commendable and urged staff of the various agencies to fully participate in the programmes and observe basic measures that will enhance their well-being.
The Commissioner of the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), Mr Richard Lanyon, stated that the launch of the policy document marked the climax of the EWP which would be the driving force for achieving the programme’s goals and objectives.
“The management of the processes, the procedures and the systems in tax collection, is a very hazardous and stressful endeavour. It is therefore imperative that a deliberate and sustained programme is put in place to maintain a healthy workforce”, Mr Lanyon pointed out.

Workers register with 3-tier pension scheme

ABOUT 304,500 workers in both the formal and informal sectors have registered with the third-tier voluntary personal pension (provident fund) under the new pension scheme.
The figure comprises about 4, 500 employees working with companies in the formal sector and about 300,000 traders under one large informal sector group with a nation-wide membership.
In line with provisions under section 112 (2) of the National Pension Act, 2008, (Act 766), the National Pensions Regulatory Authority (NPRA), has formally communicated to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to grant tax relief to those contributors.
Speaking to the Daily Graphic in Accra yesterday, the acting Chief Executive of the National Pensions Regulatory Authority (NPRA), Mr Daniel Aidoo Mensah, said the amount of tax relief a contributor received under the arrangement could go as high as 16.5 per cent depending on the amount of money one contributed.
He explained that the tax relief would be paid to the individual contributors upfront and on monthly basis while companies and groups would receive it after they have filed for it at the end of each year.
Mr Mensah added that provision had been made in the third-tier scheme to cater for the peculiar needs of workers in the informal sector of the economy who constituted the majority of workers in the country.
Under the arrangement, employees of the informal sector will decide to contribute any amount they can afford on monthly or any other regular basis. The benefits that accrue will depend on how much contribution was made. The more the amount contributed, the bigger the benefit.
Touching on how employees were receiving the scheme, Mr Mensah said many more companies and groups applied to register under the scheme and the authority was working on those applications.
He said many of the companies that had currently registered under the scheme had existing provident funds which they migrated onto the new scheme.
In a related development, the Chief Executive of the NPRA said the authority had begun discussions with the National Planning Development Commission (NDPC) and other stakeholders to initiate a national discussion on how the pension fund should be invested.
He also indicated that the authority had received inputs from two stakeholders fora it held and pointed out that the authority was in the process of completing the final draft by the end of the month which would be forwarded to the Attorney General’s Department for onward transmission to parliament for deliberation and approval.

FDB warns public on counterfeit drugs

THE Food and Drugs Board (FDB) has identified some counterfeit and substandard anti-malarial drugs on the market and advised the public to be cautious when buying such drugs.
They include quinine sulphate, artesunate tablets and metakelfin tablets.
Additionally, some substandard chloroquine injections, which have not been registered by the FDB, were also found on the market despite the fact that the use of chloroquine as anti-malarial has been discontinued in Ghana since January, 2005.
In its quest to safeguard the health of the consuming public, the FDB conducted periodic market surveillance on selected samples of medicinal products on the Ghanaian market for quality monitoring.
The counterfeit drugs were identified when samples of anti-malarial drugs were picked from both public and private hospitals, retail pharmacies, licensed chemical shops and wholesale facilities across the country by officers in respective zonal offices of the FDB to determine their quality status.
Speaking to the Daily Graphic, the Communications Manager of the FDB, Mr James Y. Lartey, said the public needed to be on the look out for such unsafe drugs since many of them found their way to the Ghanaian market through unapproved routes where custom officers could not arrest them.
He explained that laboratory analyses conducted by the FDB, with the support of United States Pharmacopoeia and USAID, revealed that samples of the anti-malarial medicines tested were either counterfeits or substandard, thereby compromising their quality, safety and efficacy.
The statement, however, indicated that the FDB had directed its zonal offices to ensure the immediate removal of those counterfeit products from the retail shops involved and also from circulation.
Besides the counterfeit drugs, the FDB also identified a number of substandard medicines including Artilum-140 tablets with batch number RT923, Renovate tablets with batch number MH932, Malmed tablets M080218, Malmed tablets with batch number M090034, Co-Artesun tablets FS090301, Acumal Junior Powder RA8001, all of which were imported.
Other substandard drugs were Trafan tablets with batch numbers 0108J, 03, 26,24,02 which were all locally manufactured.
Meanwhile, the FDB has indicated it is taking the necessary regulatory actions against the manufacturers/importers of these medicines.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Akosombo Dam water at record level

Thursday, November 4, 2010
THE volume of water in the Akosombo Hydroelectric Dam hit the highest level ever in the history of the dam at 277.33 feet yesterday, compelling the Volta River Authority (VRA) to open more spill-ways to save the dam from any possible danger.
The current water level is one foot less than maximum allowable water level of 278 feet for the dam.
Currently, six of the 12 spill-ways at the main dam at Akosombo have been opened to allow 40,000 cubic feet of water to flow per each second.
In addition, the Kpong Generating Plant had also had 11 of its 15 spill-ways opened at the level of 42,000 cubic feet per second.
The Minister of the Interior, Mr Martin Amidu, who has responsibility over the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO), yesterday toured both the Akosombo and Kpong dams to assess the situation.
He was accompanied by the National Co-ordinator of the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO), Mr Kofi Portuphy, the Eastern Regional Co-ordinator of NADMO, Mr R. Owusu Boakye, the Greater Accra Regional Co-ordinator, Mr Winfred Tesia, as well as officials from the Ministry of the Interior and NADMO.
The first time the level of the water came closest was in 1991, when it rose to 275.20ft and that was the last time the dam was opened to expel excess water.
In 2007, the volume of water in the dam fell to the lowest level at 234 feet. That was the period the nation suffered a serious energy crisis.
On Monday, November 1, 2010, the VRA began an exercise to save the dam by opening four of its 12 spill-gates to allow 10,000 cubic feet of water per second to flow out of the dam.
The exercise, which is expected to continue till the volume of water goes down to 276 feet, will be constantly monitored against further havoc in areas along the Volta River, which are already inundated.
Mr Amidu took the opportunity to interact with the 22-member Rapid Response Team patrolling the lake to ward off recalcitrant fishermen who would want to move closer to the spill-ways, where the flow of water was swiftest.
He commended the team for the work they were doing and expressed the hope that Ghanaians would appreciate what they were doing to save lives and property.
Mr Amidu encouraged the personnel of the VRA to monitor the exercise in order not to let it cause havoc to inhabitants along the lake.
Briefing the Interior Minister, the Director of Hydro Generation, Mr Kwesi Benu Amoako, said all efforts had been put in place to prevent flooding downstream.
He said the spill-ways had been opened in such a way that the flow of water had been controlled, explaining it was important the spillage was monitored effectively in order not to get too much water out at a time.
The Plant Manager at the Kpong Generating Plant, Mr Johnson Hlordjie, pointed out that the Kpong Dam was opened on Tuesday, to allow the excess water flowing from the main dam to flow out.
He said the water in the dam kept on increasing because the volume of water flowing from up-stream into the dam kept increasing. He explained that the exercise would have to continue for sometime until the volume reduced to about 276ft.

VRA increases volume of spillage

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

THE Volta River Authority (VRA) yesterday increased from 10,000 cubic feet to between 20,000 and 30,000 cubic feet per second, the volume of water being spilled from the Akosombo Dam.
The move has become necessary due to the continuous increase in the volume of water flowing from the north into the dam since four of the 12 spill-ways were opened on Monday.
The volume of water in the dam, which stood at 277 feet when it was first opened on Monday, is said to have increased to 277.27 by yesterday, which is less than one foot away from the maximum volume of 278 feet.
The Chief Executive Officer of the VRA, Mr Kweku Awortwi, who was at the dam site on Monday to sign the Order of Operation before the first spill-way could be opened, gave the assurance that engineers of the authority were on high alert to ensure that the dam did not lose too much water and also to see to it that flooding did not occur.
Speaking to the Daily Graphic yesterday, the Head of the Public Relations Unit of the VRA, Mrs Gertrude Koomson, said the current large inflow of water to the dam was due to the fact that more water was flowing from both the White Volta and Black Volta, as well as rivers Oti and Afram, which are currently overflowing their banks.
She said the effect of the flooding up north was being felt on the lake now because when there was flooding in those areas, it took about four weeks for its effect to be felt.
She maintained that the 20,000 to 30,000 cubic feet per second being spilled presently was within range and it would, therefore, not cause any havoc to inhabitants living downstream.
“People downstream the dam could be affected if the volume is increased to 50,000 cubic feet per second,” she indicated.
In a related development, personnel of the Rapid Response Unit of the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO) have embarked on a mock rescue operation down stream the lake in readiness for any eventuality.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

NHIA holds stakeholder forum on capitation (Graphic Business)

THE National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) is to pilot what it terms a per capita provider payment system as part of a process of improving payment systems under the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).
The per capita payment method, when it begins will only be used for primary care - non specialist out-patient’s services. Specialist referral and in-patient care will continue to be paid for by using the already existing Ghana Diagnostic Related Groups (G-DRG) with the fee for service and medicines payment method.
The proposed per capita payments, which is also referred to as capitation or money per person per period, involves advance payments to primary care service providers of a calculated and agreed amount of money per client per period.
The amount transferred is calculated based on prior research into utilisation rates and costs projected over a period of time and subject to periodic reviews and adjustments.
To ensure success of the project, a forum on the capitation proposals for major stakeholders in the NHIS has taken place at the National Insurance Commission (NIC) in Accra. It was attended by delegates from the Community Practice Pharmacists Association, Private Medical and Dental Practitioners Association, and Private Midwives and Maternity Homes Association.
The forum was to provide an opportunity for the stakeholders to review, question, and provide constructive suggestions on the proposals before they were finalised, piloted and evaluated.
The Greater Accra Regional Director of Health Services, Professor Irene Agyepong, who is also chair of the Provider Payment Systems Reform Committee, outlined the reform objectives and explained the merits of the proposals to the participants.
She said the use of per capita payments for primary care under the NHIS is being proposed to address some of the observed shortcomings of the current provider payment system.
Under the current system, payment for services provided to National Health Insurance clients at all levels is done after service is provided. The payments are based on claims submitted by service providers using the G-DRG rates for services and Fee for Service (FFS) for medicines.
Capitation is expected to achieve the following:
* Improve cost containment
* Control cost escalation by sharing financial risk between schemes, providers and subscribers
* Introduce managed competition for providers and choice for patients as a way of increasing the responsiveness of the health system.
* Improve efficiency through more rational use of resources.
* Correct some imbalances created by the Ghana Drug Related Groupings (G-DRG) such as OPD supplier-induced demand where clients may be requested to make unnecessary visits because they are a condition for reimbursement under the DRG
* Simplify claims processing
* Address difficulties in forecasting and budgeting
Under the capitation proposals being developed indicated that each National Health Insurance subscriber would indicate his preferred primary-care provider (PPP). The choice of preferred primary-care provider by the subscriber will be voluntary. The preferred primary care service provider takes on the responsibility of managing the primary healthcare needs of the clients, including assisting them to adopt better lifestyles and other preventive measures to stay healthy.
On a monthly basis, an agreed amount of money would be advanced to the selected PPP on behalf of the client to provide for the agreed primary health care needs. It is expected that under capitation portability will be maintained. Every six months a subscriber could switch from one provider to another and payments will be redirected accordingly.
It came `out during the meeting that portability would still be practised but with clear regulations, guidelines and procedures. Subscribers can change their preferred primary-care provider (PPP) if they want to, for example if they were not satisfied with the services provided, or if they had moved and want a PPP nearer to them.
However, is was explained that such routine changes of PPP could only be done every six months but if not controlled, the administrative burden of more frequent changes of PPP on a routine basis will be unmanageable. However, in special or exceptional cases, such as a subscriber moving permanently to a totally different district or region, arrangements could be made to change the PPP in-between the six months period. In such non-emergency cases, the scheme will have to be notified for the subscriber to be temporarily attached to a facility. In all emergency cases, subscribers can be treated by the nearest qualified service provider and reimbursement will be done using G-DRG, and FFS for medicines.
It is clear that since capitation ties a subscriber down to one service provider for at least six months, it would eliminate the situation where a subscriber could visit three different service providers within a short period of time, sometimes as short as a day or two and obtain three different sets of medicines or services for the same condition.
Under the proposals, tariffs for services and medicines for primary care will be combined under a single capitated payment.
A model of group practice where prescribers, dispensers and laboratories work together as a PPP was discussed at the forum and providers were asked to seriously consider the possibilities under such a proposal. Being part of a group PPP would also be a viable option for physicians who want to do office practice part-time rather than provide comprehensive primary care services full-time.
The chief executive of the NHIA, Mr Sylvester Mensah, reiterated the advantages of capitation and the possibilities for using the provider competition generated by open enrolment of clients as a lever for improvements in quality of care.

VRA opens 4 spill-gates of dam

THE Volta River Authority (VRA) yesterday opened four of its 12 spill-gates to allow 10,000 cubic feet of water per second to flow out of the Akosombo Dam.
The exercise, which is expected to continue for about eight days, will be constantly monitored against further havoc in areas along the Volta river which are already inundated with floods.
It is to continue till the volume of water in the dam reaches an appreciable level.
The volume of water in the dam at the time of the spill was 277 feet, which was only a feet below the maximum volume of 278 feet.
Present at the site were top officials of the VRA, the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO), the police and military personnel, members of the Eastern Regional Co-ordinating Council (RCC), officials of the Asuogyaman District Assembly and other opinion leaders.
Security to the dam site was tight as people from the Akosombo township and surrounding areas who considered the exercise as a lifetime experience thronged to the gate to witness from afar. Among the crowd which were prevented from entering the dam were teachers and students of the Akosombo International School who came in buses and on foot.
Speaking to the media, the Chief Executive of the VRA, Mr Kweku Awortwi said they were not expecting any major incidence of flooding because the flow of water was gradual. However, some NADMO officials who spoke to the Daily Graphic maintained that the actual effect could only be assessed days after the spill when the water had flowed to tributaries of the Volta Lake.
Mr Awortwi said the volume of spill could be increased to 20,000 cubic feet today if more water flowed into the dam from upstream.
Mr Awortwi said the effect of the spill from the Akosombo Dam would be minimised because the Kpong Dam was spilled a day before to reduce pressure from the main dam at Akosombo.
The Eastern Regional Minister, Mr Samuel Ofosu Ampofo, and the Asuogyaman District Chief Executive, Mr Johnson Ehiakpor, said the communities around the lake had been sensitised to prevent any disaster should flooding occur.
The gave an assurance that relief items and safe havens had been made available for any eventuality.

GCB records impressive performance

Monday, November 1, 2010

THE overall performance of the Ghana Commercial Bank (GCB) in the third quarter of the year indicated an impressive improvement over the second quarter with sustained revenue momentum and enhanced profitability.
For the nine-month period ending September, the bank recorded a Profit Before Tax (PBT) of GH¢53 million as against GH¢50 million the same period last year, representing an increase of six per cent.
Income for the period to September 2010 was GH¢251.4 million, compared to GH¢169.9 million for the same period last year which represented a growth of 48 per cent; a situation the bank said was the result of improved balance sheet management and optimising risk return trade-offs.
At its third quarter 2010 interim results briefing and institutional investors meeting held at the bank’s headquarters in Accra on Friday, the Managing Director (MD) of the GCB, Mr Simeon Donoo, said the bank was progressing.
Presenting highlights of the bank’s performance, Mr Donoo said “income is resilient, impairment charges are in line with expectations, there is slow down in cost run rate as well as improved balance sheet and capital management”.
He reiterated that the bank’s expectation of an improved overall performance was unchanged, adding “We expect the interest rate easing cycle to continue, albeit at a slower pace as efforts are made to stimulate the economy”.
Mr Donoo indicated that business volume growth was expected to be strongest in the last quarter of the year. Revenue, however, was forecast to grow at a relatively slower pace due to the expectations of a decrease in operating margins in line with the general reduction in money market rates and as a result of short-term shifts in the portfolio.
A statement presented to journalists at the programme indicated that operating costs of GH¢126.5 million for the nine months were 20 per cent higher that the GH¢ 105.6 million for what was recorded for the same period a year ago.
“These cost are impacted by one-off costs relating to prior years. Despite this increase in costs the bank recorded an improvement in its operating efficiency with a cost income ration of 50 per cent compared to 62 per cent for the same period last year”, it stated.
It said impairments were in line with expectations, held relatively flat during the quarter, adding that it resulted in an annualised impairment charge of nine per cent versus 14 per cent in June 2010.
“It reflects the increased focus on improving the quality of the loan book. Total impairment charge for the nine months was GH¢71.9 million as against GH¢9.9 million during the third quarter of 2009”, the statement pointed out.
According to the statement, the GCB’s total assets increased by four per cent to GH¢1.99 billion as against GH¢1.92 billion in December 2009, driven by a 12 per cent growth in customer deposits to GH¢1.41 billion compared to GH¢1.26 billion in December 2009.
The growth was said to have come from current and savings account products which increased by 13 per cent over the period.